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How to stage your house for sale (And why you absolutely should)

You may have noticed that many if not most  top real estate agents have their listings staged. This is no coincidence, as staging a home can make a big difference when it comes to selling it. So, what exactly is home staging? It is preparing a home for sale from an aesthetic perspective. It involves decluttering, removing personal items, decorating or redecorating so that the home feels current and rearranging or replacing the existing furniture  all to highlight the most desirable aspects of the home.

Many agents are talented in staging and can help with the process, while many work with professional stagers. Some homeowners may even prefer to stage their own homes. Because 82 percent of buyers cite that home staging helps them visualize their new home, and because staged homes regularly receive higher offers than non-staged homes  were sharing insider tips on how to make your house look its very best, along with key spending considerations for doing so. 

Setting the stage: Know the costs

Before you dive into home staging, you should have an idea of cost. Its important to consult with your agent: They will give you their expert opinion on whats worth it and what you can skip, and perhaps the ballpark costs of the staging that is recommended. Know that costs can vary with each transaction, as there are many variables involved  but staging a home is almost always an expense that more than pays for itself in the end. The National Association of REALTORS reports that staged homes regularly receive offers for as much as 5 percent more than non-staged homes. On a $500,000 home, that could mean $25,000 more; on a $1 million home, that could mean a $50,000 more.

Below are some common costs associated with home staging, along with a range of what you might pay:

  • Interior paint: $2 to $6 per square foot if you hire a professional to paint the interior of your home. A 3,000-square-foot home could cost anywhere from $6,000 to $18,000. Painting is most important if your home has bright or unusual colors on the walls.
  • New lighting: Installing clean-lined, updated light fixtures can enhance the home, exponentially. You can expect to spend around $100 to $200 per fixture. Professional installation will eat up a chunk of the budget, with an average of $523.
  • Furniture rental: If your home is empty, furniture rental is an important aspect of home staging, as it shows buyers how the home can really live and what will fit well. What is the national average cost of furniture rental? Most homeowners pay around $1,500. Larger luxury properties will be significantly more. 
  • Furniture rearrangement: A home-staging professional can help arrange your existing furniture in ways that show off the rooms at their best. This service could cost around $800.
  • Professional cleaning: A clean home is vital to attracting buyers. Including this service in your home-staging budget will likely run you between $116 and $235 per cleaning. Some professional cleaning companies offer a deep-cleaning service specifically designed for putting a home on the market. 
how to stage a home

The 6 staging dos

Its time to stage your house  but where to start? Our expert agents recommend these must-dos, especially for the maximum return on your investment:

1. Clear all clutter

Grab some cardboard boxes and plastic bins and label them, putting away all knick-knacks and all personal items  family photos, especially. Clear off all clutter from kitchen and bathroom countertops. (The bigger that countertops look, the better.) Thin out all shelves to a select few books and pieces of decor. 

2. Think light, bright and neutral

Showing dark rooms wont bring the best offers or any at all. Paint all the rooms in calming, neutral colors, if they arent already. Open all the curtains and, just before showings, turn on lots of lights and lamps. You want the home to feel as light and bright as possible. 

3. Hang or lean large mirrors

An instant way to make rooms feel more spacious is by hanging large mirrors  the bigger the better. You can also lean large mirrors against walls or behind sofas, to give the illusion of depth in the spaces. (Follow all safety precautions for securing leaned mirrors.) Add mirrors even to rooms with lots natural light already, so that they bounce that light around and add to the homes allure.

4. Hang floor-to-ceiling curtains

To make rooms feel their tallest, hang curtains all the way to the ceiling and all the way to the floor. This will give the impression that the room is loftier and more spacious.

5. Mix up the furnishings

If your staged interior starts to feel a bit too neutral, try mixing up your furnishings a bit. Pull a pair of traditional chairs into a more contemporary living room. Hang a contemporary painting in a traditionally furnished bedroom. Put some pops of color here and there, too: Add some bright pillows to a beige or gray sofa, and put a couple of colorful vases on an empty bookshelf. The key is restraint  but a little energy injected into the rooms is a good thing.

6. Rearrange the furniture

Maximize the flow of your living spaces by rearranging the furniture. Choose a focal point, such as a fireplace or a wall of windows, and orient a seating grouping toward it. And, dont push furniture against the walls: Rooms will actually feel larger if you pull sofas and chairs together nearer the middle of the room or its ends. Create multiple conversation areas if you can, with two chairs, for example, or a settee and a chair. 

staging a home

The 6 staging donts

What should you avoid when it comes to home staging? Follow this list, honed from decades of experience.

1. Dont display any personalized belongings 

Take down all family photos, painted portraits and anything with your family name on it including signs, trophies, nameplates and wall graphics. (This goes for kids rooms, too.) You want buyers to visualize themselves living in the home  not you.

2. Dont use bold colors or wild patterns, anywhere

For paint, wallpaper and furniture (the latter whether its your own or rented), make sure none of it is over-the-top in color or pattern. The more the home appeals to the most buyers, the better the chance of it selling quickly, and for the best possible price. Stick to a neutral, soothing palette for everything.

3. Dont forget the outside of the house

Curb appeal is critical for making a first impression. Make sure the lawn is neatly manicured and the hedges are trimmed. Put a fresh coat of paint on the front door. Replace or repair any damaged parts of the sidewalks. Pick up all toys, water hoses, fallen branches, etc. Basic maintenance goes a long way for staging the outside of the home.

4. Dont forget the garage

This is an oft-overlooked aspect of staging a home. If your garage is messy or disorganized, tidy it up. (See our related story, here.) After all, 32 percent of buyers cite the garage as one of the most important spaces of the home. 

5. Dont overlook odors you cant smell

Lets face it: It can be difficult to smell your own home. (Youre nose blind, as the famous fabric-freshening spray commercials say.) The smartest approach? Neutralize any potential odors in your home as much as possible, especially if you have pets. Try natural methods of freshening and neutralizing  including baking soda, distilled white vinegar, coffee grounds, vanilla extract and lemons  or air fresheners and diffusers. 

6. Dont hesitate to get help

Staging your home might feel like an intimidating process. The good news? You dont have to do it alone. Talk to your Briggs Freeman Sothebys International Realty agent about professional stagers, who make homes look and feel their best for a living. The associated costs are almost always recouped exponentially. Effective home staging is an art and a science, though some of the most basic tricks can be accomplished on your own. As always, talk to your agent. No one knows best when it comes to getting your home market-ready, in every way.

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